As everyone knows, early childhood is a time of great developmental significance. The spectrum of areas that can be evaluated and treated at this age is quite broad. In fact, some of them can be treated only at this age. At the initiative of Ezer Mizion, in collaboration with the Bnei Brak Municipality and the National Good Beginning Program, the Peninat Sarit and Peninat Batsheva daycare center network has begun running the Active Nurturing Playground in their preschools. At this point, the project has been launched as a pilot program in the Bnei Brak and Afula centers.
In the framework of the Active Nurturing Playground project, members of a professional early childhood developmental staff – including an occupational therapist, speech therapist, and child psychologist – come to the center once every two weeks to observe the children as they play and to pinpoint developmental challenges. In the event that they identify developmental difficulty in some of the children, they refer parents to the early intervention.
Simone Wolfson, director of the program and initiator of developmental projects under the aegis of Ezer Mizion’s Special Children’s Division, says: “This is a prevention program that seeks to generate a change of attitudes, tools, and relevant information for school staff and educators dealing with preschool age children. In the course of the program, teachers in the system learn about the areas of preschool children’s development. They learn important information relevant to their role and receive practical tools to advance the child and realize his potential. Through appropriately guided activities, the teacher can discern if a challenge exists and interpret it correctly so as to resolve it at the earliest stages, before it intensifies and becomes much harder to deal with at a later age. This training empowers the teachers, so that, in the long run, the day-care center is upgraded in terms of its quality, the way it addresses challenges, and the responses that it has in its toolbox to offer.
“The program began at first as a mini-pilot in one day-care center alone in Bnei Brak. The results of that pilot led to the situation today, when we already have 12 day-care centers completing the project. That translates into some 1200 babies and toddlers who have gone through the program, with about 15% of the toddlers being identified with a variety of challenges in all areas of functioning. These children received an immediate response and comprehensive intervention, either by a solution on site, or by referral to suitable external therapists when necessary.
This program is able to provide a response to every developmental area at the preschool age. Our aspiration is to expand to every city that has a preschool.”
The project described above is a collaborative effort of Ezer Mizion, Bnei Brak Municipality, National Good Beginning Program, and Peninat Sarit and Peninat Batsheva daycare center network